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Fifth Sunday of Easter: A vinedresser who prunes

In today’s Gospel, Jesus begins with the solemn affirmation “I am the true vine” (v.1).
Israel was the vineyard of the Lord, sung by the prophets. She was a vine that had produced abundant fruits of faithfulness, when she was “like wild grapes in the desert” (Hosea 9:10) and Yahweh took loving care of it (Isaiah 27:2-5). 
However he complains: “I planted you a choice vine, a shoot of wholesome stock, why have you become degenerate, a wild vine?” (Jeremiah 2:21), (Isaiah 5:5-7). Despite the infidelity, from the old and sterile strain of this vine, a new, genuine shoot, Christ, the true vine, sprouted on the day of Easter.
Jesus is the vine and his disciples, the branches from whom the Lord expects delicious fruits of justice, righteousness and love. For this, like a vinedresser: he breaks off and prunes them (vv.2-3).
Pruning does not mean that bad Christians are pruned away. It is a misleading interpretation and inconsistent with God’s special love for the weak. The dead branches are not individuals who are less edifying, but miseries: the infidelities and weaknesses, present also in the best of disciples. No one is immune, all have a constant need for purification.
The separation between good and evil, between those who feel fine because they belong to the institutional Church and who are out, is a form of spiritual arrogance and hypocrisy. 
Anyone who sees dead branches only in others, who thinks that only others are in urgent need of pruning, even claims to exclude them from the community or declares them outcasts from God, is just an opinionated person, who sees the mote in his brothers’ eye and does not realise the beam that is in his (Matthew 7:4).
The discouragement in the face of human miseries in the Church is also a sign of mistrust in God’s purifying work. The disappointments caused by the sins of those who profess to be Christians can lead some to the difficult decision to abandon the community. It is an understandable and worthy of respect choice, but still wrong. Whoever does not understand the brothers or sisters who make mistakes also separates onself from the vine, Jesus, who touched the lepers and was “the friend of tax collectors and sinners.”  
So, the criticisms against the Church cannot be dismissed too easily, as hateful expressions of prejudiced people. They could, instead, be a healthy, although painful, pruning.
While it is painful, this cleansing is always a cause of joy; God’s hands cure the wounds he has inflicted (Job 5:17). “What you endure is in order to correct you.” God treats you like sons and what son is not corrected by his father?” (Hebrews 12:7).
● Father Fernando Armellini
Claretian Publications
Translated by Father John Ladesma SDB
Abridged by Father Jijo Kandamkulathy CMF